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MLS players Nedum Onuoha and Mark-Anthony Kaye discuss their own experiences with racism

Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Soccer

LOS ANGELES -- The first time he watched the horrifying video of George Floyd's death on a Minneapolis street corner, Nedum Onuoha saw more than just a police officer kneeling on the neck of an unarmed black man. He saw more than the asphyxiation of someone who repeatedly called out, "I can't breathe!"

Like many black men he also saw himself slowly dying, face down on the asphalt.

"Looking at George Floyd, I realized that is me," Onuoha said. "That was terrifying."

Which is when Onuoha said he began to cry.

"I don't really cry about anything," he said. "But in that moment, I can't cope."

Mark-Anthony Kaye watched the video and saw the same thing.

 

"It opened the reality that, yeah, in some situations that could be me," he said. "It's just an ongoing stigma that's placed on the black community. If you're not someone of mass importance, you're not important. And it's not right."

Onuoha and Kaye share more than a fear of police brutality so extreme that it has led to days of protests and thousands of arrests across the country. Both are professional soccer players, Onuoha a defender with Real Salt Lake and Kaye a midfielder with LAFC. And neither grew up in the U.S.

Onuoha, 33, was born in Nigeria and raised in England, where he played 10 seasons in the Premier League before coming to MLS three years ago. Kaye, 25, is Canadian and a member of the national team before becoming an MLS all-star. Those backgrounds have given both men a fresh if frightening take on what it means to be black in the U.S., perspectives that have been heightened by Floyd's death in police custody two weeks ago.

"There's something about being black in America. There's something about being a black male in America," Onuoha said.

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